"What is it?"

"Over-the-counter" (OTC) drugs are medicines that can be purchased by the general public in pharmacies as well as supermarkets, health food stores, and other retailers without a prescription from a doctor. They are used for self-treatment for conditions such as coughs, colds, anti-fungal treatments, sunscreens, and pain relief.

While vitamins and food supplements may be purchased over-the-counter, they are not included as OTC drugs but are called complementary medicines. Even these should only be used as directed as overdosing of them can lead to serious imbalances in the chemical system of the body.

Some OTC drugs have additional restrictions on them in that they are held behind the counter and only released on identification, age compliability and patient education.

This is particularly the case with items containing pseudoephedrine and dextromethorphan.

otc products

otc pharmacy

In Australia, the Therapeutic Goods Administration decides whether a medicine is safe enough to sell over-the-counter.

It is important to take medicines correctly, and be careful when giving them to children. More medicine does not necessarily mean better. You should never take OTC medicines longer or in higher doses than the label recommends. Patients should read the information on the label that is found on all OTC products and comply with the dosage and warnings given.

If your symptoms don't go away, you should go and see your doctor.

Common Names

OTC medicines have many different names. They may be medicines to relieve aches, pains or itches. Some help to prevent disease or help to manage recurring problems.

They may have such names as Panadol, Codral, Robitussin, Neurofen, Combantrim or medicines for allergies, heartburn, diet pills and stomach upsets.

Some street names for some OTC products are:

Skittles, DXM, CCC, Robo, Poor Man's PCP, Triple C

cough mixture

Short Term Effects


Taking OTC medicines still has risks. There is the possibility of:

  • side effects from the drugs
  • allergic reactions to the drug
  • bad interactions with other medicines, supplements, foods or drinks
  • harm due to excessive doses
  • problems for people with certain medical conditions

It is always good to check with your doctor if you are already taking some medication or have a medical condition to see if it is okay to take an OTC drug.


Long Term Effects

Some OTC drugs are quite dangerous. Cough suppressants which contain dextromethorphan (DXM) [eg. Robitussin Dry Cough Forte] can cause the following effects:

  • Visual hallucinations
  • Hyperexcitability
  • Insomnia
  • Lethargy
  • Physical dependence (with prolonged use)
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Slurred speech
  • Delusions
  • Sweating
  • High blood pressure
  • Cental nervous system problems
  • Heart problems
  • Liver and brain damage

Combined with alcohol, it is particularly dangerous and can result in death.



found out

Never take medicines that are:

  • not meant for you
  • in higher doses than recommended
  • for long periods of time
  • to experience a "high"


Ephedrine is one of the dangerous stimulants that can be found in diet pills. A few diet pills can quickly turn into a full addiction.

Among the many possible side effects of diet pills are:

  • hair loss
  • insomnia
  • menstrual cycle disturbances
  • urinary tract infections
  • diarrhea
  • vomiting
  • blurred vision
  • anxiety
  • effects to the central nervous system
  • increased metabolism
  • faster heart rate - especially serious for anyone with a pre-existing heart problem or high blood pressure
  • heart attack or stroke.









Last updated: Wednesday, 29 April, 2015